Jeffries vows to address entry of illegal guns from the US to Caribbean with great urgency

Home*Cover Story*News

Jeffries vows to address entry of illegal guns from the US to Caribbean with great urgency

US House of Representatives’ Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries has given the assurance to Caricom that the issue of illegal guns into the Caribbean will be addressed with great urgency.

He admitted that most of the guns that illegally enter TT are manufactured in his country and added that the administration of US President Joe Biden “has heard the concerns related to gun trafficking and gun violence here in TT and throughout the Caribbean, and we’re prepared to respond decisively to address it.”

Jeffries was part of the delegation that visited TT for the 45th Caricom heads of government summit, held from Monday-Wednesday.

Jeffries thanked the Prime Minister for hosting the delegation in “such a phenomenal way” and for his “insight, wisdom, hospitality and leadership” during a media conference at the Diplomatic Centre, Port of Spain on Thursday.

He said TT and the US share a special relationship and that the summit was informative as they came to TT “to listen to find a common path forward. And then to go back to Washington DC to act in the best interests of the relationship between the US and TT, act in the best interests of the relationship between America and Caricom.”

“The issues that have been discussed so eloquently as been raised by the Prime Minister include finding a path forward to tackle the challenges related to the explosion, unacceptably, of gun trafficking and gun violence.”

Gun violence, he said, is no stranger to the members of Congress there as it’s a topic that is also being addressed in the US. But he added that it, “unfortunately, has been visited upon the people of TT.

“And we understand that the guns that are being illegally trafficked here to TT, that are being used in violent acts, are guns that aren’t manufactured here in TT. They’re guns that, in almost every instance, is (sic) manufactured and initially purchased in the US

“To challenge, that we are going to confront and confront decisively in the best interests of our two countries.”

“That is a foundation to do more, but may also provide us with an opportunity to meet the moment in terms of the gun trafficking challenges that we confront in the US and that you confront here in TT, the bipartisan Safer Communities Act for the first time made gun trafficking and straw purchasing, both internal within the US and in terms of the international trafficking of guns to places like TT – a federal crime – and it will give the Department of Justice, it will give the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), it will give the FBI the ability now to more aggressively go after the gun traffickers who are flooding our communities in the US and your country here in TT with weapons of war in ways that are unconscionable and unacceptable. Let me also say that the Biden administration clearly shares this commitment.”

He said the country will continue to ” try to ascertain the process by which the guns are being trafficked.

“Is it through containers? Is it coming in through ports of entry and shipping channels that being brought in through airplane? Flight? Is it all of the above?

“We intend to take the information that we continue to receive from Prime Minister Rowley and the administration here in TT to try to enhance our enforcement efforts. We want to be good neighbours. The last thing that we want to do is export our gun violence problem to TT and we take the challenges that you now face seriously, and intend to work with the administration back in the US to encourage them to use all available resources in terms of enforcement to look at what comes in, but also what is going out.”

Yvette Clarke, member of the US’ Committee on Homeland Security said the US already has the technology for container screening, but “the deployment, how much resource is being dedicated to it…”

Jeffries also said the administration will “look into” the possibility of donating more mobile vehicle and cargo inspection system (VACIS) scanners to TT.